– Your Excellencies members of the Parliament, National Assembly and the Royal Government,
– Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen representatives of development partners,
– Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished national and international guests!
Today, as the head of the Royal Government and the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), I have a great pleasure and honor to attend this conference on “Updated Mine Action Strategy in Cambodia” with Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, representatives of development partners and operators. This is the 4th occasion in which I and my colleagues who are responsible for mine clearance are able to meet and listen to the concluding reports of all operators as well as CMAC that jointly reflect the effort, past experiences and discussions to find the key points and path for setting future direction in order to eradicate mines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) related accidents aiming at protecting the security, lives and well-beings of our people.
The lengthy war in the last 3 decades has left countless mines and UXOs in many places, turning Cambodia into a major mine-troubled country in the world. According to the Cambodia Red Cross’s report, there are 63000 people died, became handicapped or lost working abilities due to mines and UXOs.
The outcome of the Cambodia Level One National Survey on areas suspected of mines, funded by Canada, provided to the Royal Government by the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) in 2002, indicates that 1640 out of 13,908 villages across Cambodia are infested with mines and the total area of 4,466 kilometer square are suspected to be mine areas. According to the report that has been frequently discussed between the secretary general of CMAC, operators, geographers and researchers of the Level One Survey, it shows that around 10% or about more than 420 Kilometer square of suspected mine areas will be considered as the prioritized area for clearance.
After my opening speech, H.E. Sam Sotha, the Secretary General of the CMAA, will use the computer to present all the achievements made in the last 18 months, illustrating the Royal Government’s efforts relating to mines, outlining medium and long term vision on UXOs as well as preparing the next 5-year plan (2008-2012) into more details which will also show the expected outcome by the end of 2012 and 2015 by relying on the present force of the 4 operators in which each operator has raised about its human resources and mobilized fund to support its operations.
Through this report, I clearly see the concerted and determined efforts of all operators and development partners to clear mines and UXOs. Moreover, the result shows that the productivity of all operators and the reduction of mine and UXOs related accidents in the last 18 months have increased by 1.5 time or doubled. The report also shows the significant decrease in the number of accidents from an average of 846 cases between 2000 and 2005 to 450 cases in 2006, a 47% decrease. This year, I also notice that the accident rate continue to decline during the first 9 months period, from January to September, to around 290 cases compared to 373 cases during the first 9 months period of the previous year, a reduction of 22%. This report clearly indicates the great effort and determination of all operators as well as development partners in contributing to mine clearance action in Cambodia.
At the same time, I have highlighted that the Royal Government of Cambodia always considers mine clearance action as the priority in the process of national rehabilitation and development, especially on way towards achieving poverty reduction strategy and save Cambodian people from any kind of starvation and hardship. Mine beneath the ground, poverty, environmental degradation and social equity are closely interconnected. Mine beneath the ground has limited the ability to use natural resources, particularly rural land. This is the cause of rural migration to urban city which leads to increase in urbanization as well as creating many social and environmental issues. Indeed, the heart of the problem is that most vulnerable and poor people have no choice but to risk their lives working on land mine area. Hence, mine clearance issue involved not only social security but also the whole economic and development issues, especially the provision of land and safety to poor families in rural area to make a living.
At the present time, mine clearance action in Cambodia is being carried out at a very important stage of event. The overall vision of the RGC is that now is the time for the government to pay more attention to strengthen the work in this important area. I believe that Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen are fully aware of the agenda and duty of mine action stated clearly in Ottawa treaty in which Cambodia is also one the state party.
The Treaty in which Cambodia ratified on the 3rd December 1997 in Ottawa is the treaty on “the ban on the use, store, transfer of all types of mines against human and mines destruction”. Cambodia has acknowledged the importance of mine clearance action whose essence is codified in the regulations of the Ottawa treaty and is also a mirror reflecting the utmost effort of the RGC regarding mine clearance, taking measure to reduce mine related accidents and to provide relief service to victims of mines. So far, I think that Cambodia has fulfilled its duty as one of the state party in response to most of the obligations stated in the treaty, and through the annual repots sent to the United Nations every year since this treaty came into effect in 2000 in Cambodia means that we have made a comprehensive contribution to fight against mines.
Obviously, since the Ottawa treaty came into force and after Cambodia ratified the treaty in accordance with the international law, Cambodia is obligated to clear all mines within 10 years i.e. by 2010. You have all witnessed the good will of the RGC in making great ownership effort in this work, however Cambodia could not comply to all the conditions set in the framework of the treaty. The magnitude of mine issue in Cambodia is so huge that Cambodia might ask the member states concerned to extend the mandate of the treaty for another 10 years. Cambodia will explain the reasons for extension and make a report about the RGC’s willingness as well as strong commitment and action programs of both national and international operating agencies to the 8th summit which will be held on 18-22 November.
Mine clearance action in Cambodia do not only refer to mine clearance, but the Royal Government through CMAA, has actively joint with development partners to facilitate all programs aiming at reducing accidents through the education strategy to decrease mine and UXOs related accidents. At the same time, all operators including CMAC, the Cambodian Royal Armed Force, HALO Trust, and MAG have also conduct researches to find new techniques and strategies to improve mine clearance productivity. Recently, H.E. Sok An, the Deputy Prime Minister, with the request of H.E. Prak Sokhon who is the chair of the joint technical working group of the Royal Government and development partners on mines sector, has established the council for facilitating mine victims rescue services with representatives from CMAA and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation as co-chair. This reflects the Royal Government’s attention in providing rescuing services for victims of the remnants from war.
Along with the trend of the international politics which is moving toward a mine-free world, around 100 countries are vigorously discussing the implementation of Oslo Declaration in February 2007. This declaration aims to set up another treaty to ban the use of Cluster Bomb which is called “Krob Ptus Bombie” by Cambodian. In this sense, the Royal Government has also declared on the 12th March 2007 at the international conference in Phnom Penh about its full support for Oslo Declaration. Moreover, the Royal Government of Cambodia always dispatches its representative to all international meetings to draft provisions of a new treaty which cover all aspects.
This year meeting will focus not only on what I have discussed earlier, but on some other points of similar importance such as the international cooperation funding of the Ottawa treaty. In this sense, as one of the victim country the RGC did not ignored to provide its own funding for mine clearing action. For instance, the RGC has provided $800,000 USD in 2006 and $1,200,000 USD in 2007 for the activity. Besides, in 2008 the RGC will assess the need for further funding. Indeed, this pure cash budget does not include millions of dollars worth of budget for imports spending which is the state’s responsibility for financing equipments and utilities for national and international cooperation.
For the course of enhancing international cooperation, on behalf of the RGC and myself, I would like to ask all development partners to continue to provide more funding for national and international operators in Cambodia to achieve success on their noble works.
Indeed, all the important achievements made in this field can not be separated from the generous and profound financing cooperation of all our development partners. Taking this great opportunity, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Japan, England, Germany, Canada, European Union, and UNDP. I would also like to deeply thank development partners and other organizations including Australia, France, US, UNICEF, NPA, CARE, UNHCR, UN-MAS, and GIC HD for supporting mine clearing operation in the Kingdom of Cambodia. These countries and organizations have been actively participated in providing both financial and technical supports for the rehabilitation and poverty reduction in Cambodia.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for some development partners including EU, England, UNDP, UNICEF, Canada, Germany, Australia, International Center for Mine Action, and France who have joint with the RGC since the beginning to expand and strengthen the action of mine authority in Cambodia.
I would like to end my remark here to allow all the speakers to express their views and share their experiences regarding the fight against UXOs. I hope that this conference will further help to identify clearer measures to reduce the accidents resulting from UXOs, prepare rescuing services for victims of mines and move forward towards a world without the use and production of mines which brings about progress and harmony for Cambodians and other country’s citizens of all social status around the world.
On behalf of the RGC, I would like to thank development partners, national and international organizations for providing supports to Cambodia and its people at all difficult stages so far and continue to do so to make a bright future for our people.
Finally, I would like to wish this conference with fruitful successes and wish Your Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen with good health, happiness and success in all your endeavors. May I now announce the opening of the conference on “Updated Mine Action Strategy in Cambodia”.